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Religion Library: Scientology

Sacred Narratives

Written by: J. Gordon Melton

The expansion of the church has happened amidst a storm of controversy, the controversies punctuated by numerous court cases.Scientology has been tenacious in pursuing its legal options, and has eventually won the majority of the court cases in which it has been involved.Each favorable judgment in court has been celebrated as a new win, while the major events, such as the settlement of all the tax cases in 1992, have become a moment for a movement-wide celebration at all levels of the church.A multi-million dollar judgment against the church in one of the brainwashing lawsuits in the 1980s became the occasion for the organization of the International Association of Scientologists, an group designed to unite church members and others to defend the faith.The first mass demonstrations became an element in winning a reversal of the judgment.The legal wins have also been highlighted by the reversal of government actions against the church in a number of European countries and the removal of blockades to Scientology's expansion, such as Scientology gaining the right to perform marriages in Sweden (a significant recognition of the church's religious status throughout northern Europe).

At the individual level, the church has really made its impact as individuals have taken Scientology training and auditing and found it not just helpful but a life-changing experience.A few of the dramatic stories, such as the account of the prisoner William Benitez who straightened out his drug- and crime-ridden life that occasioned the creation of the Narconon and Criminon programs, and the accounts of various Hollywood celebrities -- Kirstie Alley, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and others -- have become well known even beyond the church.The church's literature, especially its many periodicals, is filled with accounts of people whose lives have been changed by their early encounters with Scientology and markedly improved as they move up the "Bridge to Freedom," that is, as they progress through the Scientology program.Such stories revolve around popular themes such as people being able to straighten out a disorganized life, improve family relations, move forward with a career, and discover hidden talents, but also include more dramatic accounts of recovering from dependence on alcohol and drugs, abandonment of a life of immorality and crime, and recovery from lives filled with depression and failure.

Within the church, the story of Scientology wins becomes the basis of the religious rhetoric of everyday life, and does much to deal with the often oppressive reality of a negative image in popular media, attacks on the church by government agencies, and the vicissitudes of life to which all religious groups are subject.

Study Questions:
     1.    Why are Hubbard's writings considered to be Scientology's sacred texts?
     2.    What is the relationship between society and Ultimate Truth? Why is this awareness a goal of Scientology?
     3.    How was the International Association of Scientologists developed? What purpose does it serve?
     4.    What is the “Bridge to Freedom”? Why is it popular among followers?


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